By Leonard Rodriguez
This column highlights inspiring stories of Latino leaders. For more than 500 years, Latino men and wom- en have positively influenced the face of United States society. Let us celebrate these outstanding hispanics.

Nydia Velazquez

Born to a hard-working family in Puerto Rico in 1953, Nydia Margarita Velazquez inherited her father’s passion for politics. In 1983, she began working as a special assistant to former U.S. Representative Edolphus Twons. The following year, she was appointed to the New York City Council to fill Councilman Luis Olmedo’s vacancy.

With this appointment, Velazquez became the first Latina to serve on the council. In 1992, she declared her candidacy for the newly created 12th Congressional District in New York City. Paving the way with a grassroots campaign and the support of Rev. Jesse Jackson and union leader Dennis Rivera, Velazquez became the nation’s first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.